Mobility Minister Gilkinet wants special train pass for teleworkers
Federal Minister for Mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) wants Belgium’s national railway company NMBS/SNCB to introduce a special train pass for teleworkers by January 2022. “People no longer work in the office every day and, therefore, expect flexible train formulas,” he stated in a press release.
Currently, NMBS/SNCB is running a pilot project presented to some 6 000 to 7 000 employees of several large companies: the Flex-Abo. It is a digital subscription for a month that contains a certain number of rides that can be activated during that period.
After an evaluation, Gilkinet wants to extend the system to everyone in January: private individuals, companies, or government services. “For this, the whole system will have to be adapted because, for optimal ease of use, the formula is linked to the parking subscriptions and the systems of the regional transport companies,” explains the Minister.
More flexibility in mobility
The project of a variable fare depending on the time of days, an idea launched by former NMBS/SNCB head Jo Cornu, is no more on the table, confirms Gilkinet in an interview with La Libre Belgique.
“Today, the priority for the railway company is to increase the range of services, both in terms of amplitude and frequency,” Gilkinet said. “With each transport plan, we will increase the number of trains. The objective set for 2040 is to have a train every 30 minutes in all the country’s stations, and one every ten minutes in the major conurbations such as Brussels.”
The initiative for a special train pass for teleworkers is part of Gilkinet’s efforts to get more people on the train. “People, in general, demand more flexibility in their mobility, as we see, for example, with the mobility budget. Therefore, an extensive and flexible train offer must form the backbone of our mobility,” concludes Gilkinet.
Teleworking has an effect
A survey carried out by the FPS Mobility and the VIAS Traffic Safety Insititute on National Telework Day shows that more than 41% of Belgian employees are teleworking today. That is almost twice as many as before the pandemic.
80% of all teleworkers stay away from the office for at least two days a week. This means that the number of homeworkers is increasing and that Belgians are moving toward structural teleworking. However, almost half of all homeworkers would like to keep the current arrangement even after the pandemic.
This development contrasts with a survey carried out by the HR services company Acerta, KU Leuven, and the professional magazine ZigZagHR among 280 panel members.
More than six in ten companies (60,9%) prefer to have their employees in the office for more than half of the working days. One in ten company managers even swears by a complete presence on the work floor.
Does that mean that employees will spend most of their working hours in the office again? Not necessarily: overall, nine out of ten (89,9%) of the employers surveyed plan to offer their employees hybrid working. Just over 60% are asking employees to work primarily from their company location, with telecommuting as an alternative. These employees will, therefore, spend at least three days per working week in the office.
However, almost 30% of employers oppositely interpret telework: their employees work primarily from home. The fact that nine out of ten employers surveyed encourage hybrid working means that one out of ten company managers are not in favor of it at all.
In concrete terms, 9% of the employers surveyed would ask their employees to work in an office for the entire working week. It is mainly the smaller companies that hold on to this classic form of working, Acerta reports.
“The fact that 90% of the companies go for a hybrid form of working is a revolution”, says Kathelijne Verboomen, director of the knowledge center at Acerta. “Two years ago we were not at that point at all. But the provisional interpretation of hybrid working is still very cautious.”
“Hybrid working is about more than the workplace. Not only do people no longer always work from the same place, but they also do not always work at the same time on the same project or task.”